Scene two: Hugo’s office

(HUGO is at his desk, on the phone.)

Hugo

This is Professor Hugo Fox. I sent down a couple of DNA samples. I was wondering if the results were back. When will that be?

(HUGO looks out the window.)

Hugo

Hey. (He leans out the window.) LUCINDA! LUCINDA! LUCINDA!

(To himself) She’s not turning around.

(To Lucinda) I know you can hear me!

(Back to the phone) Sorry. Sorry. Of course, please…

(There is a knock on the door. Before HUGO has a chance to respond, CLAUDE enters. She is his student – a goth with black clothes and black eye makeup and black fingernails.)

Hugo

OK…whenever you can, that would be great. Thanks.

(HUGO hangs up the phone.)

Claude

You wanted to see me?

(CLAUDE walks towards HUGO and stops only a couple of inches from his face. HUGO takes a half-step back. A long silence. HUGO motions to the phone.)

Hugo

I’m getting my DNA tested.

(Pause.)

The genetic codes are the tarot cards of the twenty-first century, they reveal everything about you – from how many hours of sleep you need a night to how high you wear your pants.

(CLAUDE takes a step towards HUGO. HUGO takes another step back.)

Hugo

The future is etched into your body. Genes are the new fate. These atomic-sized interwoven strands of destiny will tell me all my prospects and limitations, and will illuminate the exact size and shape of the boundaries within which I am allowed to improvize my life.

(Pause.)

DNA will even tell me if I have blue eyes or not.

Claude

You do have blue eyes.

Hugo

But that is not yet confirmed.

Claude

I’m looking right into them. They’re blue.

Hugo

Well. That’s what DNA will tell us.

(The two stand in silence.)

Hugo

Claude, do you know why I wanted to see you?

Claude

Yes.

Hugo

You plagiarized your essay.

Claude

I know.

Hugo

But you plagiarized me.

Claude

Word for word.

Hugo

This essay is just an exact repeat of what I said in class.

Claude

I couldn’t have said it better.

Hugo

But didn’t you think I’d notice?

Claude

I hoped you would.

Hugo

Do you think that is proper?

Claude

Last week we made love on your desk. Was that proper too?

Hugo

I’m not interested in getting into a debate about sexual politics, Claude. (Pause.) Besides, I told you – anything is excusable if you do it just one time and never repeat it. Infidelity. Murder. Even genocide’s OK if you have only one sloppy crack at it. What are you staring at?

Claude

Your hair. It’s really receding, isn’t it?

Hugo

Like the shoreline before a tsunami.

Claude

I think it’s sexy

Hugo

I think what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Claude

Did I tell you about my mother’s death?

Hugo

Yes. During sex.

Claude

She was lying on her death-bed. It was one of those electronically-controlled death-beds, you know, in the hospital. The whole family came, brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and second cousins, a big family, these were not a physically beautiful group of people, by the way, in truth not ten teeth between them. They came in one by one to be with her, to give her comfort, that was the ostensible reason for their compassion, but they couldn’t miss the opportunity, someone dying like that, lying alone in a bed, unable to move, a perfect receptacle in which to pour out the sewerage of their hearts and minds, so they slid up beside her, and confessed the deepest, darkest secrets that they were harbouring in their foul souls. Dark, dirty secrets about themselves. My brother told my mother he’d slept with his brother’s wife. My brother’s wife confessed she’d slept with my father. My father confessed he’d slept with the priest. The priest confessed he’d slept with my cousin’s son. It went on and on. Everyone filed in one by one and emptied out their worst secrets into my dying mother’s ears, the worst excesses of their small, filthy lives. Then the unexpected happened.

(Pause.) My mother suddenly got better.

(Pause.) She was released from hospital one Saturday afternoon and by Sunday morning she was found murdered in her bed. Shot, stabbed, suffocated and set on fire.

(Pause.) That’s when I knew I couldn’t trust people. And if I couldn’t trust people, then I didn’t want to be trusted myself. Why should I be the only trustworthy person on the planet!

(Pause.) That’s why I moved to this city, because I wanted a change, only as soon as I got here, I realized how pointless it is to go from one place to another, how everyone travels to escape themselves and no one ever succeeds, not even in death, not even in heaven, or hell, because the soul you believe is eternal is the exact same soul that disgusts you now, the same one that makes you sick. I’ve never understood how people can believe that the most sublime idea imaginable is to be stuck with your own tedious essence throughout eternity.

Hugo

My God, you’re depressing.

Claude

Thank you. As are you. What did you say in class today? ‘Your enemies may hurt you, but you can always count on your friends to ignore your cries of pain.’ It’s so true. That’s exactly how people are, and that’s why the best thing we can ever say about someone is that he didn’t kick me when I was down.

Hugo

You know, it really is rare to hear someone your age articulate the essence of life with such sophistication.

Claude

Boys my age – they don’t understand the darkness. I mean, they feel the darkness, but they don’t understand it. You feel and understand the darkness.

Hugo

My wife tells me not to be so negative all the time.

Claude

But you have to be! Life is horrible!

Hugo

She doesn’t see the darkness.

Claude

How can she not?

Hugo

She’s always looking on the bright side.

Claude

What bright side?

Hugo

She thinks there’s a bright side.

Claude

That’s just moronic!

Hugo

It’s not her fault. It’s her upbringing.

(Beat.) They were happy.

Claude

How naïve.

Hugo

One big happy family.

Claude

Ripe for slaughter!

Hugo

Of course, in a family like that, misfortune and tragedy shocks them something silly. If one of them gets cancer, they act all surprised about it, as if fifty million people don’t get cancer every year.

Claude

Fools!

Hugo

As if they’ve never even heard of cancer!

Claude

Where do they get off?

Hugo

But you – you understand. How is it you understand? How is it someone so young and fresh and – if you don’t mind me saying – nubile, how is it you have such a deep and abiding grasp of the horrors of existence? Was it just your unhappy childhood? Or was there more? Were you beaten? Were you sex-traded for a handful of magic beans? Wait – don’t answer that. I’ve had an idea. Well, actually a feeling. Take your clothes off.

Claude

Are you sure?

Hugo

Undress.

(She starts to undress.)

Claude

Are you going to undress too?

Hugo

Eventually.

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